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A French-Inspired Garden and Home by Judith Stringham

Faux Bulbs - What to Look For

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

So you think you have a brown thumb, not a green thumb? Or, you waited too late to buy bulbs for indoor forcing.  Not to worry.  You can still have flowering bulbs in the middle of winter. And these do not need watering. Yes, I'm talking about artificial flowering bulbs...faux bulbs.

You may be shaking your head, "I don't like artificial flowers," but before you rule them out, take a look at this collection of artificial flowering bulbs. Admittedly, some of the varieties look more realistic than the others. 

What do you look for when buying faux bulbs?  One of the first things to consider is what materials were used to make the plants.  The ones that I think look the most realistic are the ones made using fabric instead of plastic. Look at the paperwhite blossoms that are made from fabric. One of the best features of the blossoms is the beige wispy papery thin skin at the base of the flower cluster. 

One of the least desirable features of this faux paperwhite is the leaf with its clearly visible wire. The wire is a mixed feature. Being visible detracts from the plant, but being present allows repositioning the leaves into more realistic positions. 

Mixing the four artificial groups of plants together mimics mixing bulbs grown outdoors. There are three hyacinth plants in this arrangement.  Each of which has its own realistic features. 

The potted hyacinths are the least realistic ones in the group, but still have some redeeming qualities. The blooms are made from a combination of plastic and fabric that simulate the open flower buds and the closed buds at the top of the flower. 

The unsprouted bulbs are some of the best features of the faux hyacinth. 

These leaf stems are more life-like than the paperwhite leaves, but cannot be repositioned like the paperwhites. That is just one of the several reasons why this plant looks real. The sparseness of the bloom stalks reminds me of the real grape hyacinths that grow in my yard. The real plants have many leaves with just a few bloom stalks. Next, the small-leaved plant with its round leaves in the same pot adds to the naturalness of the plants. In the yard there are always other little volunteer plants growing alongside planted ones. 

Even though the bloom is made from plastic, it looks pretty realistic due to the variations in color and individual bud sizes, both of which are the ways real grape hyacinths grow. 

The third group of hyacinth blossoms are a mixture of fabric and plastic. Plastic blooms just do not seem as authentic as fabric ones and also tend to break down over time. Sometimes the plastic plants become brittle, other times they become greasy, almost melted. These grape hyacinths were on the more expensive side, and have retained their color, shape, and texture. 

Design of a faux bloom makes a difference in how good it looks. A closer view of the second artificial grape hyacinth shows the difference in the design in this hyacinth compared to the other grape hyacinth which is more realistically designed. This bloom has uniform fabric buds with an abrupt change to the smaller plastic buds at the top... not a very life-like design. 

Seeing the plants from different angles is important.  All of these plants have overall profiles that look like their real counterparts. The gentle draping leaf stems and blossom stems look real compared to some other artificial plants that have stiff upright stems. 

Using natural fibers like the vine basket holder helps the faux flowers look more natural, also. 

Varying the heights of the plants to keep the same scale of different heights as real plants is another factor in making faux plants look real. 

From across the room, the plants look very much like live plants. The paperwhites on the white book shelf are real. 

Faux Bulbs - What to Look For
  • Materials - fabric versus plastic 
  • Select plants with the least visible support wires 
  • Design of the faux plant should mimic the design of the real plant
  • Relative sizes of faux plants used together should reflect relative sizes of real plants 
  • Stems should drape, not stand upright 
  • Mix natural materials with artificial plants 
  • Small features like other plants and unopened bulbs add authenticity 

Reader questions
A couple of readers asked how I get real paperwhites to stand up without falling over. 

The answer is mixed. I tie something around the cluster of paperwhites to help them stay upright. Then in the end they still topple over. 

This year I used green twine which goes very well with the green stems. In past years I have also used ribbons, varying from grosgrain to satin to Christmas, just whatever was pretty. 

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